The Seljuk Han of Anatolia

SULTAN HAN KAYSERI


sculpted fan in portal entryway

Kiosk mescit mosque in courtyard

elaborate carved ribbon of dragons on kiosk mosque arches

Steps leading to roof terrace in the northwest corner

eastern courtyard cells

Iwan of western courtyard cells

axonometric drawing by A. Gabriel

axonometric drawing by Mahmut Akok

DISTRICT
38 KAYSERI
 

LOCATION
This han is located 45 km northeast of Kayseri on the Sivas Road in the village of Tuzhisar. The han is on the older Sivas road that was the major route linking Konya, Kayseri and Sivas to the east (Iraq and Iran). This road has now been replaced by a more modern highway.

[map]

OTHER NAMES
Palaz or Palas Sultan Han

Tuzhisar Sultan Han

Kayseri-Bunyan Sultan Han

Büyük Kervansarayı
 

DATE
1232-6
The inscriptions over the main and courtyard doors are now lost, so dating is estimated by comparison with the Sultan Han Aksaray, which probably preceded it.

REIGN OF

Alaeddin Keykubad I (1220-37)
 

PATRON
Alaeddin Keykubad I


BUILDING TYPE

Covered with open courtyard (COC)
Covered section smaller than the courtyard
Covered section with central aisle and 2 aisles on each side
7 bays of vaults
 


DESCRIPTION
The han faces south. It is the second largest han in Turkey, and is one of the most spectacular and striking hans of the entire Middle East. One of the most luxurious inns known, it was the five-star "Hilton" of its day.


Exterior:
There are 6 corner towers and 9 side towers on the exterior walls, which give the appearance of a fortress. The walls are made of limestone, very finely cut, and include in parts blocks of white limestone. There are lion-faced water spouts on the walls and the plain towers are of varying design.

Portal and Entryway:
The entry door is offset to the east, and is the only entry to the han. It is flanked with cylindrical columns with square bases.
On each side of the entry passageway are two vaulted rooms, which probably served as the guard’s rooms. There are also the remains of a staircase in the western guard room which led up to the roof terrace.
At the entrance passageway is a vault with pendentives and a half-dome. A star with 4 branches is formed by the intersecting lines of the intrados.

There is a stone inscription on the portal which provides the name of the architect, Yadigar.


Courtyard:
The entrance passageway opens onto a vast square courtyard, with 2 rows of 7 vaults on the east and 1 row of 7 vaults on the western side of the courtyard. The arched cells on the eastern side are covered with barrel vaults and rest on 2 rows of pillars. They probably served as both a loading area and stables.
The western cells (to the right upon entering) are doubled with a wing of rooms covered by barrel vaults. The front part of these cells house a bath complex, of irregular plan, comprising 5 rooms with domes and vaults. The first room is the dressing room, the second is the domed bathing area with basins, including the tepidarium and caldarium sections, as well as toilets. The cistern of the bath house, heated from below, is rectangular in shape covered by a barrel vault.

The other cells on this side were used for lodging people and perhaps animals. The open cells on the opposite side had the same purpose, but were probably used more in the summer.

Hall:
A monumental door with a high arch leads to the hall. It has lateral niches, an arched vault with stalactites, above which is an archivolt with a broken arch. The door is typical of the traditional Seljuk design. The face is decorated with fine geometrical arabesques.
The large hall is entirely covered in vaults and measures 42.10 long and 29.15m wide. It rests on 24 pillars. It consists of one principal aisle, 5.95m wide, and which is higher than the other vaults, and two symmetrical side aisles, each with 7 vaults covered in broken barrel vaults.
There are windows at 4m high in each of the bays of the covered hall.

The area had a raised platform to separate the animals from the humans, functioning much like a haha wall in a garden. The animals remained in the space closest to the side walls, and the middle was reserved for the travelers and communal functions.
A dome on pendentives is located over the central aisle, and its oculus measures 6 m in width.


Mosque:
A kiosk mosque stands in the middle of the courtyard, raised on 4 piers. It is square in plan, measuring 7.90m on each side. It is 2 storeys high, with a double corbelled staircase built flush into the northern side, leading up to the muezzin’s platform and the undecorated prayer room. This prayer room is square in plan, covered by a barrel vault, and lit by 2 side windows. The mihrab is on the southern side.

The lower stones are of ashlar construction and the upper stones are of granite with some marble pieces interspersed among them.
There is a giant snake (or dragon) motive on the mosque's arches: two abstractly-rendered serpent heads meet at the top of the arch.
 

DECORATION

The decoration of the mosque shows expert stone carving. It comprises geometrical motives, meanders, polygons and rosettes is extremely precise and of fine workmanship. There is a magnificent Greek key decoration on the door to the hall.
As mentioned above, the mosque arches are decorated with a stunning, stylized ribbon ending with confronting snake's heads.
Decorative elements include arabesques, crescents, dragons, trelliswork, swastikas, Syrian knots, meanders, arched bricks, lambrequins and rope work.

 

Historical note: The historian Aqsarayi mentions that the Mamluk Sultan Baybars fought a battle with the Seljuks near this han han during his 1277 campaign in Anatolia against the Mongols.


DIMENSIONS
Total area: 3900m2
Area of hall: 1290 m2
Area of courtyard: 2100m2

It is somewhat smaller that the Sultan Han Aksaray.
 

STATE OF CONSERVATION, CURRENT USAGE
The han was well-restored in 1951, and is in good condition. It is now run as a cultural site by the Turkish government and can be visited (guardian's offices are next door). It was again restored in 2007.


BIBLIOGRAPHIC REFERENCES

Acun, pp. 173-193 (includes extensive bibliography in Turkish); 460-461; 463; 535.

Aqsarayi, p. 137.

Bektaş, pp. 114-121.
Erdmann, pp. 90-97, no. 27.
Gabriel, pp. 93-98, pl. XXVIII, XXIX, XXX, fig 60-63.
Hillenbrand, fig. 6.44, p. 552; 6.45, p. 349; plate 250, p. 347; plate 251, p. 348.
Karpuz, Kuş, Dıvarcı and Şiek (2008), vol. 1, pp. 473-474.

Rice, p. 206.
 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

carving on the interior face of entry portal

arch on western side of portal

 

 

restoration and original stonework of exterior facade

arch on eastern side of portal

polygon carving on side panels of portal

detail of polygonal pattern

kiosk mosque, seen from southwest

detail of dragon heads at summit of mosque arches

Lantern dome of covered section

portal to covered section

lion's head waterspout sculpture on side of western courtyard door

lion head waterspout

detail of arcs of iwan of western side

 

detail of upper edge carving of courtyard walls

 

 

stone bearing the name of the archtect: "Master Yadigar fecit"

transcription by Halit Erketlioğlu, as seen in Kayseri Kitabeleri, 2001, p. 48

 

 

 

 

for a series of photos of the han taken in 1961 and 1963 by John Ingham, click below:

 

Village mill

Village of Sultanhan

 

 

The poet and historian Muhsin Ilyas Subaşi relates the following anecdote relative to the Kayseri Sultan Han in his book on the history of Kayseri (Dünden Bugüne Kayseri, Kayseri: Kivilcim Yayinevi, 2003; p. 92-94.) He has also written a poem to the han.


"Any aggression to travelers on the roads of my lands is an aggression to my very own honor!"

bellowed the Sultan to his Grand Vizier. And so in this way was the order given to the Grand Vizier to oversee the construction of a series of caravansarais between the larger cities of the kingdom, in order to ensure the safety and comfort of the travelers on the roads in the lands under his charge.

"You will build hans worthy of both me and my ancestors, worthy of both their kingdom and mine. One han shall be built at a day's journey to the east of Kayseri, that is to say at the place at the end of one full day of travel, and another shall be built in the same manner to the west of the city. Make sure that they are built as solidly as a fortress so that our enemies can see that we are stronger than they are, and that they are under the shadow of our swords should they cause harm to anyone!" continued the Sultan.

The Grand Vizier nodded. "So shall your orders be granted, my Sultan," he said, leaving the room. He immediately gathered together the best workmen, and gave them their instructions. Several of them were to start that very day on the construction of a han near Tushisar, and the others were to start on a site on the Kayseri road near Aksaray.

But the Grand Vizier Celaleddin Karatay, who had been given the responsibility to oversee these two projects, thought to himself: "The Sultan has ordered the building of these two hans, and I am but a humble servant in his shadow. Still, I am the second most powerful man in the kingdom and because of this I should not remain totally excluded from this endeavor. These hans shall become my monuments as well." And thus he established a plan to build his very own han southeast of Kayseri, in the present-day village of Karadayi.

The monuments commissioned by Sultan Alaeddin Keykubad were completed in the year 1236. They came to be known by his subjects as the "Sultan Hans", and their doors were opened to all.

 

One spring evening, the Sultan Alaeddin Keykubad gathered his viziers together in his palace at Keykubadiyye. He explained to them the responsibilities he expected of them concerning the services and operations of these hans.

"My knights, it is our duty to provide a sign of the respect and the consideration we hold for the personal safety of the foreign and local travelers on our lands, as well as for their goods. If a caravan or its travelers should be attacked and their goods plundered on our roads, it is to be considered a violation of our very own personal honor. You must show no mercy to the bandits, brigands, and thieves on our roads. You must designate men to constantly tend to these roads so that all travelers who use them will always feel welcomed. Every traveler in our hans is to be my guest for three days, and no fee is to be charged to those who remain for that length of time. Their hungry stomachs are to be filled with meals paid for from my very own purse. Medical treatment will be provided for any illnesses, and their cleanliness will be assured by my hammams. Their horses will be shod, and their lame and tired animals replaced. At the end of three days, their repaired shoes will be placed in front of their door. They can then choose to leave or to remain, and if they do stay, a small daily fee will be charged. This honorable tradition has come down to us from our Central Asian ancestors, and we are thus beholden to continue this same custom as we spread our culture westwards…..We must not fail in this duty to carry on the principles which formed the base of our sultanate. For once defects and bad habits are incorporated into the kingdom we are building, it will be difficult to remove them from the character of the people of this nation. And this heavy responsibility is our duty to ensure. In this we must be very vigilant….."


After the viziers left the meeting, the wisdom of the Sultan's words became very evident to them. And so instructions to fulfill his orders were sent out by special couriers to those in charge of the caravansarais. And when their doors opened for business, the people of the kingdom started to live in the light of a new and secure era….
 

 

SULTANHANI    

                MUHSİN İLYAS SUBAŞI

 

How many caravans have entered your doors with anticipation

How many voyagers have left their dreams in the heart of your courtyard

The stars kiss your forehead each night

What stories do the roads passing in front of you tell?

  

Homesickness and the melancholy of exile

Are loaded on your backs each day of the year

The past and the future hide in the shadows of your monumental portal

Which welcomes and bids adieu each day to a thousand desires...

 

The Seljuks placed their very souls in your domes

Travelers have filled your halls with their trusting faith

So it was that your destiny grew,

But now, your visitors are none!

 

  

SULTANHANI

 

          -Katharine Branning Hanımefendiye;

 

Kaç kervan umutla girer kapından,

Seyyahlar gönlünde hülyaya dalar.

Yıldızlar her gece öper alnından,

Ne söyler önünden geçen bu yollar?

 

Sıla özlemini, gurbet hüznünü,

Yüklenir sırtına yılın her günü,

Saklarken taç kapın yarını-dünü,

Her gün bin umutla boşalır, dolar…

 

Selçuklu kubbene gönlünü koymuş,

Yolcular sofranda umuda doymuş,

Senin de kaderin demek ki buymuş,

Artık ne gelenin, ne gidenin var!..

 

MUHSİN İLYAS SUBAŞI

 

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